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How to avoid the holi-daze and add time for making memories

Having a video chat during your holiday celebration is a way to include those who can’t be there in person.
(Drazen Zigic)

Making time to reconnect with loved ones is a wish topping many lists this holiday season, so set aside the chaos this year and commit to doing more — more of what you truly enjoy, that is.

As public health officials push for people to resist the urge to gather with others outside their households amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these tips can help you celebrate, and save time, with a scaled-down meal at home:

Spread out prep time. If you’re busy putting the final touches on a meal, you’ll miss out on the excitement. Rely on tricks to spread your preparation over the days before your meal, such as making sides and casseroles ahead of time and freezing them so all you have to do on the big day is pop them in the oven. Mashed potatoes are a notorious last-minute time suck, so make them early in the day and keep them warm in a slow cooker. Just add a bit of cream and stir periodically to keep them soft and fluffy.

Simplify cleanup. After the meal, there’s no reason to halt everything while you slip away to bring order back to the kitchen. Cover dishes and put perishables away, then return to your quality time. If you use disposable tableware, there’s even less to worry about later.

Buying from local bakeries or restaurants for your holiday celebration can give them a boost while saving you time.
(Family Features)

Shop local for shortcuts. Local businesses are feeling the crunch of the pandemic in a big way, but you can give them a boost while doing yourself a time-saving favor. Pick up a pie or specialty dessert from a local bakery. Inquire about family-size sides from restaurants in your community.

Get out of the house. If you’ve spent too much time this year looking at your own surroundings, getting away from it all may lift your spirits while saving the hours you’d pour into getting your home ready. Communities typically have outdoor facilities large enough to maintain social distancing. With some simple decorations, you can create a fun atmosphere.

Holiday snack
A dessert- or hors d’oeuvre-only party lets you keep the focus on your loved ones rather than the food.
(Family Features)

Go short and sweet. If the idea of a full-fledged dinner is stretching you too thin, look for festive ways to scale back. For example, a dessert- or hors d’oeuvre-only party lets you keep the focus on your loved ones rather than the food. Plan themed stations with different styles of desserts and snacks and consider asking each family member to help stock each station with his or her favorite treats.

Celebrate like it’s 2020

After a whirlwind of a year, this holiday season is looking different than those of years past. Instead of lamenting what won’t be the same, treat this year as an opportunity to celebrate in a whole new way.

A virtual holiday party may be a good choice in the year of COVID-19.
(Kay Scanlon / Los Angeles Times)

Invite technology to the party. With limits on group gatherings and travel likely to continue through the holiday season, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to gather with everyone you’d like. However, the pandemic has shown how simple it can be to use technology to stay connected. Schedule a virtual party or make time for a video chat during your celebration to include those who can’t be there in person. To help add a touch of normalcy to the festivities, consider packaging and sending small boxes of party essentials in advance to each person who will join the virtual party.

Make giving a group effort. Helping those in need is a tradition many people honor around the holidays, but this year your giving is likely to be especially impactful. When you join efforts with family or friends, your contributions can go even further, and it’s a way to bond over your shared experience. Consider volunteering at a food pantry, “adopting” a family or two or finding another local cause that could use some extra help.

Simplify gift-giving. As families grow, the gift lists get longer. However, especially in a year like this, not many wallets have expanded to keep up with the pace. Forgo the time and money required to buy for everyone, and instead of buying several small items for a lot of people, put a little more toward a single item your recipients truly want or need.

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this article.